Female executive officers remain rare in Canada

Rosenzweig's 13th annual report shows Canada's top 100 companies are dominated by male executives.
Businesspeople At Meeting

International Women’s Day 2018 came at a time when the conversation about gender equality had never been louder. But the latest edition of a gender representation study shows that despite widespread political, corporate and social activism, Canada’s corner offices are only at the beginning of their evolution.

The latest Rosenzweig Report shows that among Canada’s top 100 publicly traded companies (by revenue), women make up just over 9% of their named executive officers.

The report (now in its thirteenth year) examined corner office rosters listed on companies’ public filings and posted to databases with the Financial Post and Report on Business. The resulting list of 540 executive leaders contained only 51 women, up from 48 in 2017.

“For those who prefer to see a glass half empty, this progress undoubtedly appears glacial,” wrote Jay Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the Toronto-based global executive search firm. “If we project a doubling of the numbers every 12 years, that would put us at least 20 years away from achieving 30%.”

The report does, however, point to social trends that indicate potential change.

More female politicians are being elected in Canada and being appointed to senior positions. The report also acknowledges that more than 60% of university graduates are now women, and social movements such as #TimesUp and #MeToo have gained widespread support on social media and in pop culture.

The last year has seen several businesses and industry organizations take on the cause of female leadership directly.

Late last year, the Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance formed to advocate for gender parity in executive positions and on corporate boards. (Canadian boards of directors fare slightly better than c-suites on female representation, according to research from the Canadian Board Diversity Council. Its 2017 report showed 22.6% of board positions were filled by women, a whole percentage point higher than 2016.)

· Women take the lead in CEO job-shadow program

The marketing industry is also making advances in the #TimesUp era.

And ad agency holding company Omnicom, for example, has brought its female mentorship program Omniwomen to Canada, holding regular events to support its female leadership. Several agencies and their clients have signed on to a new CEO job shadowing program called CEOx1Day to bridge the gender gap. And just this week, more than 180 female c-suite and senior leaders from ad agencies and industry organizations signed a letter announcing the creation of Time’s Up Advertising.

“It’s not only important to celebrate female leadership, but also to normalize it for the younger generations coming into the workforce,” says Jane Griffith, a partner and national diversity leader at Odgers Berndtson involved with the program.

The Rosenzweig report indicates that 6% of the top 100 Canadian companies it studied have female CEOs (two of which have one male and one female co-CEOs). The largest corporation with a female named executive officer is RBC (Canada’s fifth largest company by revenue) for which Janice Fukakusa serves at CFO and chief administrative officer. However, the report also shows that RBC and the other four big banks (TD, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC) have only four women among their 26 named executive officers.